Supporting LGBTI pupils: ‘It’s important a school is ready for anyone.’

The Guardian reports that schools today are much more receptive to students’ gender and sexual orientation, and are places where diversity is celebrated rather than scorned.

It was not long ago that LGBT pupils at the Priory School in Hitchen, Hertfordshire, hid behind a mask of silence. Fellow students used the word “gay” to describe something that was rubbish. Faced with homophobic language, they felt unable to come out in the classroom and kept their true identities secret.

Three years later, dozens of students have come out thanks to a “massive culture shift” in school. Today, diversity and inclusion are celebrated across all aspects of school life: from the setting up of an LGBT drop-in group and appointment of an LGBT student champion, to changes in the curriculum and the building of gender-neutral toilets and changing rooms. 

Priory now has a resident counsellor and has forged close links with local child and adolescent mental health services. Sixteen staff have also been trained in mental health first aid. 

Assistant head Katie Southall has led the transformation. 

“We realised from an annual survey on student wellbeing that lots of students identified as gay or LGBT, but didn’t want to be open about it. We are now in a position where pupils are openly transgender, gay, bi, lesbian or gender questioning.”

 

LGBT role models have also visited the school, including actor Sir Ian McKellen, co-founder of LGBT charity Stonewall, who spoke to 35 student members of the weekly LGBT drop-in group. 

Meanwhile Arbury primary school in Cambridge is working hard to promote diversity and has become a beacon of good practice. It has adopted a range of initiatives to stamp out gender stereotypes across the school, from abolishing pink- and blue-coloured name badges for reception children, to having a non-gendered school uniform.

Children are taught to respect difference from the start in reception: through picture books showing different types of families and talks. Displays of materials from Stonewall with the slogan: “Different families, same love” are posted around the school.

Headteacher Ben Tull says: “It is really important that a school is ready for anyone who walks in. For children at primary level, the more we can do to non-stereotype them the better.” 

Read more Supporting LGBTI pupils: ‘It’s important a school is ready for anyone.’

Do you think celebrity endorsement of LGBT issues would help children be more accepting and understanding in your school? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~Tamsin

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